By Mandi Kimes
Cover albums are always a tricky subject: either you pull off a flawless version of a classic tune, or you are stuck with the struggle that you could never pull off any sort of mastery it would take to recreate said song. With San Franciscan-based electro-noir pop duo no:carrier, they challenged themselves to turn classic sunny tunes about the state of California into a somber, dark subject on their album of covers called Ghosts of the West Coast.
The story behind the album is this: The American Dream turns into the American Nightmare with four different situations: a stalker ex-boyfriend is searching for his love, the height or fall of fame and the show business, homelessness due to shattered dreams, and the reprise of lost love. It’s interesting that they chose the following songs for each theme; and that they aren’t hiding the dark side of California. Yes, it’s a beautiful state with sandy beaches and “where dreams come true,” but it’s also heartbreak and working hard to the point of exhaustion and fatigue.
The Don Henley classic "Boys of Summer" begins with a haunting piano and atmospheric tones that creep in and out until the beat picks up. When the singer comes in, his voice is a bit too intense and over-exaggerating the haunting feeling. His voice is too sweet and polished for this dark ballad. The instrumentation is impressive as it crashes in at the right moments and backs off to create the illusion of a spirit swirling around. It definitely adds a different element to the cover that I had not considered before.
Belinda Carlisle's "California" continues the dark, mysterious tone from the previous track. The chorus kicks up a notch as the drums and guitar explode into a roaring rock ballad. The singer for this song is better suited than the last. Her voice soars in the chorus and drops down to a low lull in the verse. After listening to “California,” I can honestly say I don’t think I had ever heard the original version; but to be honest, I don’t think I need to after enjoying this singer’s beautiful version.
The most weird track on the album is a cover of Tony Carey's "Room With a View". Again, can’t say I’ve heard the original, unless it’s recognition is hidden in this over-produced version. The instrumentation is too much to handle after the last track, with drums overpowering the droning whirrs of the synths.
The last cover of the album is the traditional Irish song "She Moved Through the Fair." The singer chosen for this track definitely has a classical or choral background, as she exhibits that “tall, round sound” that all us choir students have had engrained into our minds everyday. Her alto voice stretches dynamics, right up until the same whirring synths from the last come in, only to exit briefly with the singer returning to her classic fineness. Think of an Enya song mixed the singing style of Evanescence's Amy Lee. The song is great; until it leads into a thunderous electronic jam at 4:43. It takes away from the gentle caress that the song so lovingly just placed on me. Regardless, it’s a good track with which to end the album.